Somaliland suspends development programs in face of famine Voice of America
Somaliland suspends development programs in face of famine Voice of America
A Kenya High Court ruling has determined that the presidential election votes–which are counted only at each polling station–are to be treated as final when announced at the initial parliamentary constituency tally centre. This means that any changes to the tally at the national level in Nairobi by the IEBC, the electoral management body, will have to come in the form of a court challenge.
This approach would have prevented the ECK and IEBC from taking the approach of 2007 and 2013, where national results relied on changed and missing vote counts.
The key thing to remember about Kenyan elections is that the votes are all hand marking of paper ballots, which are counted only at each polling station. The results are recorded on Form 34 and–if law is followed–posted for the public on the door to the polling station.
The ballots and another exected copy of the results are sealed in the ballot box.
After that, it is all a power struggle and smoke and fog–high tech and low tech. Arithmetic is done or not done in accordance with power and interests.
The court appears to have moved some power back toward the voters and away from central government. We shall see.
I will follow up after I’ve read the opinion and caught up on some of the “moving pieces” on the election preparation.
Congratulations to Maina Kiai and his colleagues who brought the constitutional challenge.
The new Kenya IFES country director has arrived in time to learn her way around for the August election, just as Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (“IEBC”) has thrown in the towel, again, on a crucial technology acquisition–and once again going with a “sole source” procurement with Safran/Morpho (as with the BVR kits in 2013) to save time since they are already late.
The technology problems will be all too familiar, of course, to Kenyans and others who were involved or closely observed the 2007 and 2013 elections, or were involved in writing up any of the many commission papers, evaluation reports, etc. associated with those misadventures.
Sadly, it may be that the die has already been cast for this year in that the IEBC Commissioners were not replaced until too late to have the requisite time on the job to adequately prepare for the election (a key recommendation from the 2008 “Kreigler Commission”). For the most part they have inherited the work of their predecessors and the staff they hired who made crucial decisions like planning a huge expansion of the number of polling places, while failing to address the corruption in the failed technology procurements or make adequate progress on replacements.
With the new Commissioners taking office, officials from President Kenyatta’s party launched a public attack on the U.S. election assistance effort which is being run by IFES, and singling out long time IFES country director Mike Yard, who seems to have been the one person with both the most longevity and the best reputation involved in process. And then there were visa problems and other Government of Kenya directed disruptions. I am sure its a coincidence but Mr. Yard took on a new challenge earlier this year as Country Director for Libya. Thus, a new director arriving less than five months before the scheduled vote. (I arrived in Kenya roughly six months before the 2007 election and am still learning on a continuing basis things no one told me that I should have known about that election.)
Realistically, the job looks impossible as structured, even if there had been adequate preparation time because of the conflicts of interest that USAID has built into the the role. Compounding the problems from 2007 and 2013, USAID chose to select one entity to provide the inside technical support for the IEBC as per the IFES role since 2001 with the ECK/IIEC/IEBC, to provide voter education and also to lead election observation. Thus IFES is wearing both “insider” and “outsider” hats at the same time, when the contradictory responsibilities of working with and observing the IEBC are both hugely challenging and vitally important.
Of course this is all based on what is public to me as an interested American taxpayer–maybe USAID changed its mind and ended up restructuring all this on a non-public basis?
One other factor is that IFES does have some separate funding for 2014-18 work from the Canadian International Development Agency this time.
No incumbent president has been recognized by a Kenyan election management body as having lost a re-election bid. Presumably the immediate foreign policy priorities of the United States in Kenya in August will be weighted to the stability of our long time “partner” Kenya. As the State Department continues the process of consolidation of control of USAID as we have seen over the previous U.S. administrations in moving from the 2007 to 2013 now to 2017 election, it will be that much harder to for people handling democracy assistance at USAID to stand firm for the long term interests, and statutory and legal priority of the U.S. to support democracy in the face of competing claims from the diplomatic and defense constituencies within our government which will presumably have incentives to placate the incumbent.
Election observation has always been controversial in Kenya. In the first multi-party presidential election in 1992, Ambassador Smith Hempstone, according to his memoir, recommended having NDI observe the election, anticipating an incoming Clinton administration. President Moi, who used the Republican consulting firm Black, Manafort and Stone, refused to entertain NDI, writes Hempstone, but agreed to IRI. In 1997 and 2002, the observation agreement went to the Carter Center, then to IRI in 2007 (that year USAID did not want to do an observation, as I have written, but Ambassador Ranneberger instigated having IRI observe), then back to the Carter Center in 2013. Observers inevitably get criticized for being too critical or too lenient towards the Kenyan process, which has always been messy.
In my year 2007, the EU and the domestic donor-funded observers stood up initially to the ECK’s obvious irregularities, while IRI was initially neutered. Eventually IRI released both its exit poll indicating an opposition win (August 2008) and a highly critical final report (July 2008).
In 2013, the domestic observation, ELOG, initially “verified” the incomplete “final results” announced by the IEBC but eventually released a significantly critical final report. Similarly, the Carter Center provided key initial bolstering of the IEBC’s position in their preliminary report but issued a much more critical final report months later. See Carter Center quietly published strikingly critical Final Report from Kenya Election Observation.
In both those 2007 and 2013 elections, as in 2002, IFES worked inside the IEBC to provide technical support and did not have an “observation” role. Bill Press, the IFES President, later testified to Congress that the 2013 election was a great success from the IFES standpoint because Kenya “did not burn”. The terminology of the Kenyan constitution for a successful election is “free and fair” as opposed to “did not burn”. Maybe I am just too much of a lawyer in how I look at these things, but I do not think we should have USAID help underwrite elections to a “do not burn” rather than “free and fair” standard to the the tune of $25M when people are literally starving to death in the neighborhood and aid budgets are being cut.
I do not want Kenya to burn, and I hope and pray that this year’s election is less violent than 1992, 1997 or 2007–and even 2013 when “only” 400-500 people were killed in politically driven violence in the pre-election months and only a few protesters were killed by police after the vote. In general terms the reason that people die over elections in Kenya is because they are governed by killers, not because Kenyans aspire to actually have their votes counted honestly and openly.
“Kenya: Avoiding Another Electoral Crisis” March 2017 International Crisis Group paper by Murithi Mutiga
Political tensions are rising in Kenya ahead of elections in August for the presidency and other senior posts. Measures taken now can avert the risk of a repeat of electoral violence that killed hundreds of people in 2007-2008.
. . . .
The equipment for transmitting results from polling places to the tallying centre is as important as the voter kits. Past elections were compromised by lack of transparency in tallying and transmitting. The installation of a transparent, efficient electoral management system would go a long way to assuaging public concerns. Unfortunately, rushed procurement, with little lead-time for testing, may set the IEBC up for failure. That would also deepen suspicions in a situation already marked by significant tension between parties. Government steps to limit the role of external partners, such as the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, that can offer valuable technical assistance, have not helped.
. . . .
International partners should extend technical and financial help to the IEBC to help it better tackle the challenges. This should, however, be done with nuance, flexibility and complete transparency, in light of unfounded claims by the ruling party that external parties are seeking to influence the electoral outcome. International observers should be deployed in time to monitor crucial stages of the electoral process, such as verification of the vote register and procurement of electoral materials.
. . . .
Unfortunately, USAID is still stuck on maintaining minimal, at most, public disclosure, rather than adapt to the recommendations of the Crisis Group and the obvious lessons to be learned from the failure of 2007, especially, and 2013.
While USAID Kenya has confirmed for me that their original December 2015 Request for Agreement (“RFA”) for the $20M “Kenya Electoral Assistance Program 2017” remains a public document at http://www.grants.gov, the subsequent Agreement between USAID and IFES is not being treated as public. Americans who want to understand our government’s approach to subsidizing the Government of Kenya’s election would be well advised to study the Request for Agreement (rfa-615-16-000001-keap-2017) closely to understand the basic structure, but will need to “ask around” informally to get any actual detail as the election now rapidly approaches. Likewise, Kenyans who want to have input in the administration of their own election.
Meanwhile, still no documents whatsoever, from my October 2015 request for USAID documents relating to our support for the 2013 Kenya election (!).
See “IEBC must look us in the eye and say, ‘We aren’t ready for August'” by Tee Ngugi in The East African.
As an American Christian moralist myself, I struggle over the competing claims on our foreign policy in the context of values of compassion and honesty; basic programs to seek to assist the poorest and least powerful facing hunger and sickness are surely needed by others, necessary for us to be who we aspire to be in the world and are surely affordable in the context of our resources.
The leaders of America’s top evangelical aid groups and denominations urged Congress today to reject proposed cuts to foreign aid in a letter signed by more than 100 prominent Christians, including 2 of the 6 clergy who prayed at President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
. . . .
The Trump administration released its budget blueprint Thursday, which outlines the anticipated cutbacks to international aid programs. The plan reduces the State Department and US Agency for International Development (USAID) budget by 28 percent.
“As followers of Christ, it is our moral responsibility to urge you to support and protect the International Affairs Budget, and avoid disproportionate cuts to these vital programs that ensure that our country continues to be the ‘shining city upon a hill,’” they stated. Currently, foreign assistance—America’s contribution to health care and development efforts abroad—represents a fraction of 1 percent of the nation’s budget.
Signatories include leaders from humanitarian aid groups including World Vision USA, World Relief, Compassion International, Living Water International, Food for the Hungry, as well as denominational leaders from the Southern Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God, Wesleyan Church, Church of Nazarene, the Anglican Church in North America, the Christian Reformed Church in North America, and the National Association of Evangelicals. Catholic Relief Services and several Catholic dioceses also signed the letter.
. . . .
The letter sent to Congress emphasizes the Christian perspective that America cannot turn away from “those in desperate need” when it has been “blessed” with resources. Stearns went on to suggest cutting programs could halt or even undo the advancements made to eradicate diseases, reduce poverty, and improve education. “We risk losing the hard-won progress against poverty, wasting billions of dollars and decades of efforts,” he said. . . .
Of the laundry list of independent U.S. Government agencies Trump’s initial “skinny budget” submission to Congress proposes to eliminate, the USIP and the Wilson Center are specifically active on issues relating to democracy, war and peace in East Africa and the African Development Foundation is the one Africa-specific agency.
fifth sixth eighth anniversary of the “gangland style” execution of Oscar Foundation head Oscar Kingara and his associate John Paul Oulu in their car near State House in Nairobi was this past Thursday Sunday. From the New York Times report the next day:
“The United States is gravely concerned and urges the Kenyan government to launch an immediate, comprehensive and transparent investigation into this crime,” the American ambassador to Kenya, Michael E. Ranneberger, said in a statement on Friday. It urged the authorities to “prevent Kenya from becoming a place where human rights defenders can be murdered with impunity.” (emphasis added)
The slain men, Oscar Kamau Kingara and John Paul Oulu, had been driving to a meeting of human rights activists when unidentified assailants opened fire. No arrests have been reported.
Last month, the two activists met with Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, and provided him with “testimony on the issue of police killings in Nairobi and Central Province,” Mr. Alston said in a statement issued in New York on Thursday.
“It is extremely troubling when those working to defend human rights in Kenya can be assassinated in broad daylight in the middle of Nairobi,” Mr. Alston said.
Mr. Alston visited Kenya last month and said in a previous statement that killings by the police were “systematic, widespread and carefully planned.”
. . . .
Unfortunately, in these five years nothing has been done about the murders, and no action was taken on the underlying issue of widespread extrajudicial killings by the police. Kenya in fact proved itself to be a place where human rights defenders can be murdered with impunity. The government spokesman who made inflammatory (and baseless according to the embassy) attacks on the victims just before the killings is now a governor, and the Attorney General who stood out as an impediment to prosecuting extrajudicial killing (and was banned from travel to the U.S.) is a Senator. (See also the State Department’s Kenya Country Report on Human Rights Practices, 2013)
Below is the March 19, 2009 statement to the Congressional Record by Senator Russ Feingold who is now the President’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the DRC, courtesy of the Mars Group:
Mr. President, two human rights defenders, Oscar Kamau Kingara and John Paul Oulu, were murdered in the streets of Nairobi, Kenya two weeks ago. I was deeply saddened to learn of these murders and join the call of U.S. Ambassador Ranneberger for an immediate, comprehensive and transparent investigation of this crime. At the same time, we cannot view these murders simply in isolation; these murders are part of a continuing pattern of extrajudicial killings with impunity in Kenya. The slain activists were outspoken on the participation of Kenya’s police in such killings and the continuing problem of corruption throughout Kenya’s security sector. If these and other underlying rule of law problems are not addressed, there is a very real potential for political instability and armed conflict to return to Kenya.
In December 2007, Kenya made international news headlines as violence erupted after its general elections. Over 1,000 people were killed, and the international community, under the leadership of Kofi Annan, rallied to broker a power-sharing agreement and stabilize the government. In the immediate term, this initiative stopped the violence from worsening and has since been hailed as an example of successful conflict resolution. But as too often happens, once the agreement was signed and the immediate threats receded, diplomatic engagement was scaled down. Now over a year later, while the power-sharing agreement remains intact, the fundamental problems that led to the violence in December 2007 remain unchanged. In some cases, they have even become worse.
Mr. President, last October, the independent Commission of Inquiry on Post-Election Violence, known as the Waki Commission, issued its final report. The Commission called for the Kenyan government to establish a Special Tribunal to seek accountability for persons bearing the greatest responsibility for the violence after the elections. It also recommended immediate and comprehensive reform of Kenya’s police service. Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, echoed that recommendation in his report, which was released last month. Alston found the police had been widely involved in the post-election violence and continue to carry out carefully planned extrajudicial killings. The Special Rapporteur also identified systematic shortcomings and the need for reform in the judiciary and Office of the Attorney General.
The fundamental premise of the Trump campaign was that if Americans would elect Trump he would switch sides and become a patriot, serving the nation to make it “great again” and serving some, albeit conspicuously not all, segments of Americans. He would, he claimed, do unto others on behalf of “us” what he had spent the first roughly seventy years of his life doing to more or less everyone he encountered regardless of creed.
Trump believed the polls well enough to recognize it was always a long shot, as ultimately reflected in his losing popular vote totals (the biggest total vote loss ever for an Electoral College winner, on low turnout). Not expecting to win, Trump did not take serious steps to prepare to actually enter public service or to game out his alternatives.
Having caught some breaks, he ended up getting the Electoral College and is now having to spend some substantial part of his time, and some attention on becoming a president. (Although not to the point so far of taking the situation seriously enough to moderate his behavior on Twitter or otherwise seek self discipline or gravitas in most situations day to day.)
How did Trump end up winning? While Trump’s style of bluster and aggressive and open dishonesty on the stump was not widely endearing, most Republicans were going to vote for anyone their party nominated period, at least so long as they campaigned as at least somewhat illiberal, assuring that Trump would be in a close general election almost no matter what. So in that way, the key threshold actors were the “leaders” of the Republican Party (full disclosure: I identified as a Republican from childhood, served in the Party for years and did not affirmatively quit until 2013.) In other words, Reince Priebus and Paul Ryan were the two Americans who had the most formal responsibility and actual power to determine the legitimacy and acceptability of Donald Trump as a prospective President of the United States (and the new ruling and defining authority in the Republican Party).
In the campaign, Trump’s staff and the Republican Party that he affiliated with to run for the presidency put together a tactical effort to target likely Clinton voters and dissuade them from voting that proved brilliantly effective for the America of now. America and Americans have been profoundly changed by Rupert Murdoch with Roger Ailes and Osama Bin Laden since the Clintons’ last successful campaign outside of New York. The Republican side understood that Facebook and email was far more important to the emotions that would drive the behavior of plausibly likely voters than a “ground game” of a generation ago when Bill Clinton got re-elected in 2016.
Ultimately Hillary Clinton was the Bob Dole of 1996–the candidate who would have won the general election eight years earlier had she been nominated then, but was no longer after waiting eight years in step with the times.
Some state governments managed to reduce voting by what they might call “undesirables” who were likely to vote for Clinton, while the Trump and Clinton campaigns combined to fire up “the deplorables”. Beyond that Trump got consequential help from Putin and at the last minute from the FBI Director, but there is no way to prove what would have happened without their actions nor are we likely to have much clarity about Comey’s intentions. (It is believable to me that Comey acted for reasons related to internal matters within the FBI, the Justice Department and the Government more broadly while expecting that Clinton would win anyway–presumably someday he will present an explanation in a book, by which time the consequences of Trump’s rise to power will be clearer.)
So now, like the proverbial dog who finds that the car he was chasing has stopped, Trump is confronted with what to do with his prize from winning the chase. The biggest hassle seems to be that taking the job threatens to cost Trump a lot of money as well as well as quite a bit of time spent in Washington away from his homes in New York, New Jersey and South Florida and some living in public housing. He has declared that any limitations on his business activities, and his residence, are to be negotiated or announced over time rather than governed by existing law and past practice.
Having no foreign policy experience and having been condemned publicly and privately by much of the cohort from previous Republican administrations, he seemed caught off guard by having to pick a nominee for Secretary of State.
Having Mitt Romney come to dinner at Trump Tower and contradict all of his previous expositions about Trump’s unfitness was a tour de force reminder of Trump’s tactical brilliance in accumulating personal power for himself and humiliating rivals and was important to firmly seizing control of the GOP from what we might call “the 20th Century Republicans.” It was not useful to finding someone that would be useful to Trump as Secretary. As the story has been told to us by the president’s people through the news media, man for all of Washington’s seasons Robert Gates was able to suggest to Trump his client Rex Tillerson who quickly became the natural choice for Trump. This might even be true even if it hardly seems likely to be fully explanatory.
Tillerson is surely better suited to be Secretary of State than Trump is to be President. (For that matter, better suited to be President.) The questions about Tillerson relate to problems about his relationship with a nefarious foreign autocrat with control of the worlds largest nuclear arsenal–as with Trump. Beyond business relationships, which include some other nefarious but less dangerous (to Americans and others if not to their own subjects) autocrats he seems to be a person of more conventional decency than Trump. (Full disclosure, I’m an Eagle Scout, too.)
Tillerson is a surely a loyal company man, having spent his entire career with Exxon Mobile, and it seems plausible to me that he could effectuate a switch of “companies” to work for the United States Government to run the State Department rather than running Exxon Mobile, in a way that for Trump, who so far as I know has never worked for anyone other than his father and himself, was never plausible to me. The problem with Trump’s Putin tilt and undisclosed interests and finances, and with Trump’s character, and with Trump’s willingness to actually change careers and orientation to serve as President of the United States will continue to be there whether or not Tillerson steps further forward out of the shadows to represent us as our chief diplomat.
Confronted with the idea of a less than ideal market to divest his business interests Trump has made it clear that he puts his own pocketbook first and Anerica second (at the very best) by refusing to divest. So now we know that Trump simply refuses to be an actual patriot after all. Contra our founding fathers who staked their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor” on the idea of America, Trump, who has, to be direct, no obvious prior personal experience with honor, has said that a small reduction in his alleged $10B net worth is too high a price to pay to be a full-time President.
I do think that Trump will be well received by Kenya’s politicians, as well as those in many other countries on the continent, and I’m assuming his call with Uluru Kenyatta today went fine. Trump’s personal approach to public office will be more familiar and comfortable to Kenya’s leaders than that of Bush or Obama and his socioeconomic background more reassuring than someone as relatively exotic and self-made as Obama.
Back in March 2010–well before the last widespread famine in 2011–I wrote a piece here called “The Nairobi Curse” suggesting an analogy between the role of Nairobi in Kenya’s overall political and economic development and “the resource curse” faced by those countries prized by outsiders for oil, for example.
With famine being reprised I was reminded of the “Nairobi Curse” when I noticed on the “KenyaBuzz” Nairobi entertainment and happenings newsletter a charming little story, “Nairobi’s Newest Wine Shop Delivers In A Different Kind Of Way”, promoting “Wine and Bubbles”, a French couples’ couple of Nairobi stores selling French wine. The expat Nairobian explained that he had hoped to grow vineyards in Kenya but learned on moving from France that the climate was not conducive so he was selling French wine instead.
The growth market of course is introducing wine tastes to what is invariably called the “Kenyan Middle Class”–basically the third tier wealthy Kenyan of the Nairobi professional/managerial class. The sort of people who would be upper middle class in a much more broadly and deeply prosperous country where most people had enough to eat with a per capita income several times that of Kenya’s.
Here is my original post:
This is Kenya’s version of “the oil curse” or “the resource curse”.
Nairobi is the place to be in Sub-Saharan Africa (and outside of South Africa) for international meetings and conferences. It is a relatively comfortable place to live for middle class or wealthy Westerners, or young aid workers. An international city with a certain level of cosmopolitanism, yet of manageable size and scope relative to so many burgeoning cities of the less developed “South”. A headquarters for two UN agencies. A diplomatic critical mass, with lots of representation from all sorts of countries around the world that have little obvious presence in Africa, but also a crossroads for representation of everyone playing for a major piece of the pie (Iran, Libya, China, India, the Gulf States–as well as obviously the US and Europe). And you can go on business, and then take a safari on the side.
From the US, soldiers go to Djibouti (the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, at Camp Lemonier) while diplomats go to Nairobi. The US runs its Somali diplomacy from the Embassy to Kenya rather than Djibouti which would be the more obvious place on paper. Likewise, Somali politicians tend to live much of the time in Nairobi. Nairobi is the place to invest cash generated in Somalia.
Nairobi is the “back office”, and in some cases the only office, for much of relatively huge amount of US aid-related effort for Southern Sudan, as well as that from other countries.
Nairobi has something like 8% of the Kenyan population, and perhaps 60% of the GDP (don’t let anyone tell you they know any of these figures too precisely). Perhaps 50-60 percent of the population lives in informal settlements (“slums”) whereas the other half lives as “the other half”. Most national level Kenyan politicians holding office live primarily in Nairobi (although they may have homes in a constituency they represent in Parliament as well).
When I was the East Africa Director, based in Nairobi, for IRI (where our much bigger Sudan program was also headquartered) as an American I felt that my government at that time (2007-2008) was falling into the trap of recreating a Cold War paradigm for our international relations by looking around through our “War on Terrorism” telescope. And that in Kenya there were a lot of international interests that valued stability over reforms for reasons that related more to the current role of Nairobi than the long term interests of Kenyan development.
Certainly Nairobi is a resource that has great value–as does oil, for instance–it’s just a question of whether Kenyans can find a way to use it to the broad advantage of the nation or whether it will continue to be exploited to disproportionately benefit the most powerful. Including being used to help keep them in power when more Kenyans want democratic change.
Just this past week Kenya hosted an IGAD meeting on Sudan–and flouted its obligations as a party to the Rome Treaty on the ICC by inviting President Bashir of Sudan while under indictment. Meanwhile the ICC is considering whether to allow formal investigation of key Kenyan leaders for the post-election violence from 2007-08. But Nairobi is such a great place to have these conferences . . . and Sudan is so important (Khartoum is no Nairobi, but it has oil).
The The East African reports that “Kenya saw drought coming, but did little to avert food crisis“. None of us have any reason to be surprised–most especially when there is a re-election to run. This is what I wrote as the last famine developed in 2011:
Another drought, more famine. One of the early and formative conversations I had shortly after arriving to work in Kenya was with a judge who encouraged me to take note of the living conditions of…